Bitcoin pipes

Bitcoin’s dubious utility value

Bitcoin fanbois point to bitcoin’s utility as a payment network. But, unlike Visa, holders of bitcoin don’t get any of the mining revenues, so there is no revenue stream on which to value a bitcoin.
 
Participants do need to have bitcoin to transfer funds, but they don’t need to hold it for longer than the transaction itself. Since bitcoin is limited to ~3 transactions per second, and average confirmation times are several hours, depending on network congestion, there is no need for more than a few bitcoin to accomplish all payments across the network. As an example, assuming 1 bitcoin per transaction, 3/sec * 3,600 sec/hr * 3 hr/confirmation = 32,400 bitcoin to execute all payments on the network.
 
Also, since bitcoin can be divided into satoshi, hundreds of millionths of a Bitcoin, there is no need to hold a particular amount of bitcoin to accomplish a transaction. The bitcoin itself just represents the transaction record, not the value of the contract, just as a record in Visa’s database represents the transaction, and is not in and of itself valuable, beyond the market price of the transaction mechanism (about 1%).
 
Even if holders of bitcoin shared in the mining revenues, the competitive mining market produces a flat fee per transaction, not a percentage fee, which allows the transfer of massive fortunes for a tiny fraction of a percent. It would be a much worse value proposition, for investors, than Visa.
 
The fiat price of a bitcoin arises from an artificial restriction on bitcoin supply & mining, and people’s expectation that these restrictions will entice others to buy their bitcoin in the future at a higher price. The “greater fool” theory. But this is separate from bitcoin’s utility as a payment network.
 
It is no different from other speculative phenomena such as Beanie Babies, baseball cards, and other artificially restricted commodities. People misinterpret the restriction as an ipso facto justification for a high price. Once all available cash & credit has poured into the commodity, there are no further buyers, the mania ends, and the price drops to the utility value of the commodity.  In bitcoin’s case, its utility value is close to zero.
Tether collapse scenario hindenberg style

Tether collapse scenario

Current situation with dumb money buying BTC:

  • Tether prints tethers to buy bitcoin
  • BTC-USDT price skyrockets
  • Arbitrage bots buy BTC-USD, because everyone assumes 1 USDT = 1 USD
  • BTC-USD price matches BTC-USDT price
  • Price increase brings in more dumb money USD to buy BTC, skyrocketing price further
  • Arbitrage bots sell BTC for USD, profit
  • Tether sells BTC for USD
  • Tether is now “backed” by USD — can afford to redeem tethers for the small number of people who convert USDT to USD
  • Tether pockets USD, prints more tethers …

What if the flow of dumb money slows down or stops? (due to higher prices, and simply no more mattress cash to dump into BTC)

  • Tether prints tethers to buy bitcoin
  • BTC-USDT price skyrockets
  • Arbitrage bots buy BTC-USD
  • No more dumb money = no more USD arbitrage profit
  • Less arbitrage = increasing gap between BTC-USDT and BTC-USD prices
  • Now there is arbitrage opportunity the other direction
  • Buy BTC-USD, sell BTC-USDT, sell USDT for USD
  • Tether now has to redeem tethers for USD
  • The bigger the gap, the more tethers they have to redeem
  • If they stop printing tethers, the BTC-USDT price collapses
  • If BTC-USDT price collapses, arbitrage bots buy BTC-USDT and sell BTC-USD, further collapsing BTC-USD
  • If they keep printing, the gap widens and they have to redeem more and more tethers for USD
  • At that point, the game is up and Tether will have no incentive to continue redeeming tethers.  The tether market collapses.  You can redeem 1 USDT for 1 cent.  BTC paper profits are wiped out.  Tether is left with >600 million USD in the bank.

The phenomena to watch out for in this scenario are:

  • Increasing gap between BTC-USDT and BTC-USD prices
  • Increasing volatility of USDT-USD price, followed by collapse

Bitcoin’s paper price bump

What’s behind Bitcoin’s recent price increase? I’ll tell you — and it’s not Bitcoin’s utility as a currency, or wonderful investment opportunity.
 
Bitfinex accounts for the largest share of BTC trading volume. Yet they stopped accepting USD deposits back in April. This inevitably spilled into restricting USD withdrawals.  After that, BTC price on their exchange went up. Why?
 
If you were an account holder, what would you do? I’m not able to withdraw my USD. Therefore, I’ll buy BTC so I can move it to another wallet. Hence, increased demand for BTC on their exchange, and increased price AND volume.
 
Other exchanges did the same; there are not many that allow USD deposits & withdrawals now.
 
This recent BTC price increase is caused by the fact that no one can withdraw USD!
What happens when this bottled-up demand to withdraw finally moves into USD, other fiat, or other crypto?
Updated on 10/20/2017 to reflect USD withdrawal restrictions and supporting link.

Alt-coins are vulnerable to attack

The strength of a cryptocurrency is the share of global processing power it can muster in service of its ledger.  An attack by a significant computational resource (botnet, mining pool, government supercomputer, etc.) could potentially reverse recent transactions or cause a fork of the currency.  The reason the global share matters is that computational power is fungible, and may be used in service of any cryptocurrency.

The less computational power dedicated to mining a crypto, the more vulnerable it is to attack.  Alt-coins that do not command as much hash power as Bitcoin would be first in line.

Processing power over time is governed by the price per computational unit and by the price of electricity.  For example, a spike in electricity prices or transistor prices would increase mining costs, and therefore transaction fees, possibly disrupting the usability of the currency.  A sudden drop in electricity prices or transistor prices would reduce mining costs, increasing the chance of attacks on a currency’s ledger.

Such attacks could be orchestrated, not necessarily to steal the underlying wealth of currency holders, but to accomplish secondary effects beneficial to the attacker.  For example:

  • A large investor in a particular crypto may attack a competing (smaller) crypto intruding in the space.  This implies a first-mover advantage in the cryptocurrency space and stratification of crypto, with one per defensible economic niche.  Eventually, the market may consolidate into one global crypto.
  • Momentarily disrupt the functioning of a crypto at a critical moment in its development, for maximum PR effect, to spread fear & uncertainty to potential investors and adopters.
  • Momentarily disrupt recent transactions to create uncertainty for retailers accepting the currency & consumers using it.
  • Permanently disrupt or fork a smaller currency.

You would only need to bid on computing power for a short time to cause a major disruption.  Miners are very sensitive to transaction fees, so would quickly respond to any change in market demand.  Furthermore, cloud mining operations, and cloud computing in general, provide an easy way to quickly spool up computing power for a short time, disrupt the target crypto, and spool down, thus minimizing costs.

Alt-coins based on a permissionless, global blockchain are very vulnerable to this type of attack. Eventually, even Bitcoin itself may come under attack should there be a revolutionary development in computational hardware, exploited by a group of early adopters, or a government willing to throw massive fiat to kill it once and for all.

Bitcoin is a ponzi scheme

All “cryptocurrencies” based on artificial limits are inherently pump-and-dump schemes.  If they were true free market currencies, the money supply would grow with demand. Instead, they are artificially restricted.  Why?  To create the illusion of limited supply and therefore expectation of future scarcity and speculative profit.

Bitcoin price chart 2017They are fiat currencies, based on nothing but this speculation.  The Bitcoin price chart shows this.  Bitcoin fanboys point to the skyrocketing price as a badge of honor, but all it shows is that it is a speculation, not a store of value.  It has no price stability, and cannot be considered a “currency”.

In the short term, the price will keep going up for various reasons.  Mining is getting more expensive and less profitable, driving out miners and restricting supply.  Use as a pseudo-anonymous money transfer scheme is increasing on the dark web.  A method of circumventing Chinese capital controls.  An investment vehicle for Chinese with not enough local investment options.

But eventually, people will realize NOTHING holds up the value of Bitcoin.  No petrodollar, no USG taxation.  And it will collapse, as will the rest of the currencies that will inevitably fork off this one.  This is even ignoring the major security and regulatory issues that plague Bitcoin.

Currency is a form of social credit.  It’s an implied debt, that someone will pay off with goods & services in the future.  This should be the basis of any cryptocurrency, not arbitrary and artificial limits on supply, and fancy math for its issuance.

Hamster wheel

10 reasons why politics is a waste of time

  1. You don’t drain the swamp — the swamp drains you.  The system swallows everyone whole, even someone as audacious as Trump.
  2. To get elected, you need support.  To get support you need to make promises, which often will include statist actions.
  3. You need funding.   People only donate big money if they will see a financial benefit, which usually involves a government privilege.
  4. Even small money makes you more susceptible to pressure, because it’s harder to say “no” to someone who has given you money, even if they want a statist policy.
  5. You have to get along with people: candidates, bureaucrats, civil organizations, unions, the media, voters, etc.  That means not rocking the boat.  Avoiding hard truths.  Not being unpleasant.  It’s hard to get the truth out this way. It’s like trying to put out a burning building with your hands tied behind your back.
  6. Every small compromise leads to a bigger compromise, and so on, until you are fully coopted into the system.  If you accept the premise that a little bit of statist action is okay as long as your end goal is the removal of a bigger statist action, you will never be able to see that you are being coopted.  In your mind, you are fighting the good fight, but in reality you are merely doing the work of the state, with a fun, but hypocritical, marketing plan.
  7. Look at the opportunity cost of doing politics.  How effective is electoral politics, versus media or business?  Lots of energy spent for meager results.
  8. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  Politics is dirty and savage.  The people in it are assholes.  If you get into the game, you have to play hard to win.  That means eventually you have to become as nasty and back-stabbing as your competitors.  How can you avoid it?  By buttering everyone’s bread and going along to get along, i.e. statism.
  9. Winning is losing.  If you win office, you take a salary funded by taxpayers.  That is inherently unethical.  If you forego the salary, you have to make it up otherwise.  If someone funds you, then you are beholden to them, which usually means statism.  If you are independently wealthy, then politics is an awful waste of your time.  You’d be better off buying professional politicians, than being one yourself.  Focus on making more money and funding media and tech ventures to benefit the liberty movement.
  10. Why hasn’t electoral politics tended to increased liberty, but only increased statism?  What fundamental change will happen to reverse this trend?  Politics is structured to produce an increase in state power.  The simple act of being “in power” demands that one exercise power.  If one’s only agenda is to refrain from using power, one will not have it for very long, as someone else will take it.  Seeking power to restrain power is a performative contradiction.
Global left-right politics

The globalization of politics

Something is different in politics recently.  No, not Trump.  I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics.  In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders.  But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own.  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world.  There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.

Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse.  But there is a narrative structure to recent events.  A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread.  Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments.  Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm?  This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.

We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide.  This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated.  Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.

Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics.  It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen.  We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal.  We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.

The real revolution is at home.

Auto scrapyard: cars crushed

Twitterspeak: the shrinkage of language

Twitter is altering language, not just on Twitter, but across all media.  Everything is being compactified; short attention spans demand it.  Among the benefits are brevity, efficiency, and impact.  The downside is the destruction of nuance and precision.  Dropped indefinite articles, sentence fragments, and an explosion of abbreviations and acronyms.  The danger is a form of Newspeak, in which a decrease in expressiveness of language yields a constricting of thought itself.

Will our capacity for conceptualization be limited to the lowest common denominator or will this punchy format lead to communicating new ideas that otherwise would have collected dust in long-form academic essays?

three pirates fighting

Trump split libertarians

The Trump phenomenon has splintered the libertarian movement into three distinct groups.  The massive political realignment taking place has exposed fractures that have existed for a long time.  How will these factions reconcile and will they constitute a unified movement in the future?

Left-libertarians – Typically DC beltway libertarians and wannabe respectable types.  The biggest of the three groups, they are best represented by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.  They value left social issues and are animated by anti-racism, gay marriage, and baking of cakes.  They also think Trump is racist and hates women.  Any good that may come from Trump’s challenge of the establishment is overshadowed by his being Pure Evil.

Paleo-conservatives – People like Lew Rockwell and Jeff Deist.  They value nationalism and traditional right views on culture, immigrants, and political correctness.  There is a silver lining to every one of Trump’s totalitarian or economically destructive proposals.

Voluntarists – The smallest faction, with people like Robert Wenzel and James Corbett.  They see Trump as not much different from Hillary or any of the other candidates, and a potential disaster for the country and the libertarian brand.    They tend to point out both the good aspects and terrible aspects of Trump’s proposals.